It’s a fair bet that when Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island was first published in serialised form in the children’s magazine ‘Young Folks’ between 1881 and 1882, he couldn’t have dreamed of the number of different ways in which it would seize the imagination of the reading public or, for that matter, the whole ‘pirate’ industry which it would almost single-handedly create.
It follows therefore that it’s a racing certainly he wouldn’t have foreseen that a mere hundred and thirty-three years later his opus would have morphed into the gender-bending, innuendo-laden and very definitely ‘adult’ pantomime that is this Christmas Season’s festive fare on offer at Above The Stag Theatre down in Vauxhall.
From the same creative team that brought you last years’ ‘Jack Off The Beanstalk’, Jon Bradfield and Martin Hooper – also, incidentally, responsible (if that’s the right word) for the last five ATS panto’s – comes this years offering with production values and sets punching well above their weight for this bijou venue, and delivering, with a couple of minor moans on my part, a rollocking good evenings entertainment.
In the sleepy Cornish fishing village of Michael Cove the patroness of the local hostelry, The Royal Bumboy Inn, Sally Hawkins (Philip Lawrence curiously reminiscent of Rose West) is on hard times. She can’t keep a man, and what’s even worse, her son Jim Hawkins (popular ATS regular Lucas Livesey) can’t get one either and has to console himself with the company of the hotel’s one employee, the dungaree-wearing Marina (a charming Briony Rawle) who can’t find the right woman.
Long John Silver (Alex Wood with sidekick parrot uncredited, but obviously Sue Pollard!) who in this production has both hands intact, having a rather more intimate part of his body replaced with a hook, is in need of a ship. He’s heard tell of a map that leads to buried treasure and luckily The Royal Bumboy Inn’s one resident is an ex sea-captain, The Captain (Andrew Truluck, commendably managing to stay in character throughout) who just happens now to have a fishing boat in the harbour.
Neptune (yes, that’s what I said) has let his one and only son, the beautiful if slightly vacuous Daryl (Luke Webber in some very tight-fitting costumes…) come up to the mortal world from his home under the sea, but has sent a merman, Ethel (Hugh O’Donnell…Ethel Merman, geddit?) who is, for some reason which I must have missed, Australian…to keep an eye out for him, with the promise of being made into a human if he plays his cards right.
The Captain receives a letter from one of his two daughters, Josephine (Ellen Butler in full-on county-set flow) saying she’s about to arrive, and when she does, she forges an unholy alliance with Long John Silver, press-ganging the entire cast as crew on their boat.
Hijinks ensue, and we discover how Long John Silver got his hook. All find love, and we find out what happened to The Captain’s other daughter…
You’ll have a great time. However, this show is a long runner, especially given the sparcity of musical numbers. I think you could trim twenty minutes from the script and not only tighten it, but give it more focus. I have to admit that there were places where I found my mind wandering…
Also, although this is very firmly an adult panto and billed as such this is definitely not one for those easily offended.
There’s a great tradition in British humour of leading someone towards a joke and letting their dirty mind fill in the blanks. Bradfield and Hooper have done it before, notably in last year’s panto. I rather wish they’d left a little more to the imagination this time, especially is the audience participation song.
Still, as I said, there’s a lot to like from David Shield’s great set and costumes to Maximilien Speilbichler’s clever, and often extremely funny projections…and the pearl necklace of the title is a thing of wonder. All in all a great night out, though I suspect it will get even better during the run.
- By Jon Bradfield & Martin Hooper
- Director: Andrew Beckett
- Cast includes: Hugh O’Donnell, Alex Wood, Briony Rawle, Lucas Livesy, Philip Lawrence, Andrew Truluck, Luke Webber, Ellen Butler
- Above the Stag Theatre, London
- Until 10th January 2015
- Review by Richard Voyce
- 3 December 2014